GRATITUDE

With Thanksgiving approaching, now is a great time to begin practicing an “attitude of gratitude.”  Focus on being thankful for what you have, for what you have learned or gained, and the negative experiences you haven’t been through.  Be thankful for the ones you have experienced, for they have added value to your life by either making you stronger or teaching you a valuable lesson that you can benefit from and apply to the rest of your life.

1. Gratitude Journal: Keep a Gratitude Journal. At the end of each day, write down at least 5 things you feel grateful for from the day. These might include things like: a smile from a stranger, a hug from your child, an unexpected compliment, a good meal, a moment of laughter with a friend.

2. Spend Time In Nature: Go for a walk in nature. Appreciate the beauty, the quiet, the fresh air. Enjoy the magnificence of a sunset…or a sunrise if you are an early riser.

3. Gratitude Dance: Take a few minutes and begin your day with the Gratitude Dance. If your energy is flagging during the day — do it again. It will probably make you laugh — and that will energize and refresh you.

4. Appreciate Family, Friends and Colleagues: Bring to mind those close to you that you love and how you are thankful that they are part of your life. Make a note in your journal of your special people and why you appreciate them. You may want to write them a short note, send them a card, or call them to let them know how grateful you are for their presence in your life.

5. Be Grateful For You: Be grateful for you and for your life. Take a moment to notice your goodness; the caring you express to others. Do this several times a week and be grateful for your qualities and strengths. There is no one else quite like you. Honor and appreciate yourself.

COPING WITH GRIEF:

How to Handle Your Emotions

Traumatic events are a shock to the mind and body, and lead to a variety of emotions. Coping with grief takes time, help from others, and the knowledge that grieving isn’t easy.

Grief is an emotion that takes time to deal with, but you can get through it and, eventually move on. Grieving is a healthy response to tragedy, loss, and sadness, and it’s important to allow yourself time to process your loss.

Coping With Grief: The Range of Emotions

Grief doesn’t just happen after someone has died. Any traumatic event, major life change, or significant loss — a rape, a divorce, even major financial losses — can cause grief. Throughout the grieving process, you may find yourself feeling:

Guilty
Sad
Angry
Fearful
Disbelief or in denial
Depressed
Numb

Coping With Grief: Accepting It

Don’t try to run away from it; rather, face it head on.  Acknowledge that something traumatic has happened and that it has had a profound effect on you. Give yourself time to grieve, but seek help when you need it.

Coping with Grief: Finding Help

You may want some time alone to process your thoughts and struggle with your grief, but it’s important to recognize when you need help from others.

You might need more help if you find that, after some time, you are not able to get back to normal activities, you have trouble sleeping or eating, or have thoughts and feelings that interfere with everyday life.

A grief counselor or other therapist may be able to help you cope with grief, and finally start to move past it. Getting your grief out in the open is an important first step.

Talk about it with someone — a friend, family, a support group. Support groups can be wonderful. There, you can relate to other people who understand your situation, and you can get advice on what helped them through their grief.

Of course, expressing your emotions doesn’t have to be done out loud…..write about it.  Rather than allowing thoughts to swirl in your head, put them down on paper. This is a great way of getting out your feelings if you are shy or embarrassed about sharing them with another person.

Coping With Grief: Getting Closure

Closure is also an important part of coping with grief and may help you move through the grieving process.

Depending on the event, developing a ritual to say farewell may be helpful. We have funerals when someone dies and they are a healthy step on the road to acceptance. Rituals can be helpful for other traumas as well.

Coping With Grief: When Will I Feel Better?

There is no set timeline for grieving. And unfortunately, you may never completely get over your loss. But your loss shouldn’t keep you from enjoying life, even with occasional periods of sadness.

Let yourself grieve as long as you need to. You do have to resume normal life, but know that it’s going to take awhile.

Look for small signs that you’re coping with grief and getting past it. Happy times signal that you’re progressing. When you realize that you aren’t always dwelling on the sadness or don’t think about it as frequently as you once did, that means that you’re finally moving on — at your own pace.

Your mind and body need time to grieve after a traumatic event. If you deprive yourself of the grieving process, you may find that you have more difficulty accepting what has happened or that unresolved feelings and issues may flare up later on. Allow yourself to feel sad and even selfish; eventually, you’ll find yourself feeling better a little bit at a time.

Even though part of you may always feel sad about your loss, you’ll find yourself happy and laughing again one day.

 

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF DURING TIMES OF CRISIS AND TRAUMA

During times of crisis and tragedy, it is important to remember to take care of yourself and those close to you. The most immediate concern for most people right now is for safety. The following guidelines may be helpful:

 Try to keep routine as much as possible.
 Take care not to isolate. Talk openly about your feelings.
 Restrict the amount of media coverage that you watch, listen to and/or read. We
know that the more television coverage of a traumatic event(s) you watch, the
greater the likelihood that you may experience significant distress and trauma.
 Discuss the event with children in age-appropriate ways.
 Do not allow children to watch television coverage of the event.
 Do not listen to news reports in front of children.
 Minimize the amount of details children read in the newspaper.
 For example, to a three year old you might say “Yes, a bad thing happened far
away. But you are okay here and now”. For older children, you should reassure
them that they and your family are safe. Try to answer their questions or address
their concerns with concrete information.
 Be prepared to spend more time with your children at bedtime. They may need
more reassurance at this time.
 Know that everyone reacts differently to crisis and trauma and expect/accept
those differences … this is normal.
 Keep an eye on your family, friends and co-workers for stress reactions. If you
are concerned about how you or someone you know is reacting, call for help.

GETTING THROUGH THE GRIEVING PROCESS

Emotions can be overwhelming in the midst of grief – so much so that just “getting through” each day is difficult. During this time, it’s important to remember that there are no guidelines for the recovery process. People heal in their own time and in their own way.

  • Don’t be in a hurry to get through the grieving process. Allow yourself to do what you feel you need to do from day to day.
  • Know that it is not a betrayal to the memory of your loved one to begin the healing process.
  • Honor your loved one by talking about his or her life and sharing what you will miss the most.
  • Ask yourself what the deceased would want you to do.
  • Find a meaning and a purpose for being here.

Consider the following when you experience a loss in your life:

Give Your Emotions Free Rein
“Initially, you may feel as though you’re living in a fog, simply going through the motions of day-to-day life as if on autopilot.  You may cry so much that your eyes feel parched. It’s OK to spend days where you do nothing but cry. Or, you may be surprised to find that you’re not crying at all. Neither reaction is right or wrong; it just is. If the latter is the case, you may feel a surge of guilt wondering why you can’t even eke out a tear for someone you cared so much about. The spectrum of emotions that you may experience is huge. It can range from shock and numbness, to fear and panic, to anger and resentment.

Sometimes this can be magnified if you have unfinished emotional business with the person who died. You didn’t get to say what you wanted to say, or you didn’t hear the “I’m sorry” or “I love you” that you desperately needed to hear. Or maybe your goodbye did happen, but not the way you planned.

It’s hard to accept that a future without your loved one is your new reality; the mere thought of it can make you feel amazingly empty and alone. The yearning for their presence may feel as if it is going to consume you. As a result, you may refuse to get out of bed, want to go off alone somewhere, or push others away. “You may think being alone will ease the pain, but it rarely does.”

You May Struggle with Your Faith
You might feel a sense of spiritual emptiness, or feel that you were betrayed by your faith, or experience feelings of bitterness, anger and disappointment in your religion. After all, if the God you believe in is so good, how could he take away something you loved so intensely? How could he allow a senseless or violent death to occur? This is painful and confusing and something many, many people experience — especially when innocent children are the victims.

Expect Guilt to Arise
Guilt may also factor in during the weeks and months after a loss — guilt over being unable to save your loved one or about just living your life. At some point you will likely catch yourself laughing or relaxing. It’s natural to actually start to feel better at some point after grieving a loss. It’s also natural to feel guilty about it. You may think, “How can I stand enjoying myself when my son is dead?” If you realize that a day has gone by when you didn’t think about your loved one (which may or may not happen in time), you may feel guilty that you’re “forgetting” him or her. If it takes a short amount of time to recover from a loss, it doesn’t mean you only loved a little. The depth, breadth, and longevity of your grief are not a reflection of how much you cared about the person.

FORGIVING YOURSELF AFTER THE LOSS OF A LOVED ONE

If you are suffering from feelings of guilt after the loss of a loved one, even though the death was not your fault, here is advice on how to forgive yourself so that you can move on.

  • Know that it isn’t uncommon to play the “What if?” game: “What if I could have stopped it?” “What if I had only known the accident would happen?” “What if I could trade places and it could have been me who died?” etc.
  • You may also find yourself feeling guilty if you catch yourself smiling, having a good time or simply enjoying life after your loss.
  • Although there is no set timetable for grieving, if a substantial period of time has passed and you are still not allowing yourself to move on past the grieving process, allowing yourself to be crippled with guilt for something that was not your fault, ask yourself why.
  • Understand that in any situation, even one like this, people don’t engage in a behavior that they don’t get a payoff for. Is the fact that you can’t move forward a payoff in itself? If you feel the only connection that you have with the deceased is your grieving, could that be a payoff? Is the guilt a payoff? Are you punishing yourself because you feel you deserve to be punished for being a bad mother/sibling/friend/spouse because you let your loved one die?
  • If you won’t move on past the grieving process because the grief is your current connection to the deceased, ask yourself how terrible it is that your precious loved one is being remembered as a legacy of pain that you choose to carry around. You’re focusing on the moment he/she died instead of on the moments he/she lived and the joy that he/she brought to your life. Isn’t that a terrible burden to place on your loved one?
  • If you want to forgive yourself, understand that guilt is all about intention. Is there a bone in your body that wished or intended for something bad to happen to your loved one? If not, why are you feeling guilty?
  • There comes a time when you have to say, ‘Enough is enough. If I give up the pain, I’m not going to lose him/her.’ How long you grieve or how deeply you hurt does not reflect how much you loved. The fact that it’s been two, five or 10 years and you are allowing yourself to live life doesn’t mean that you love him/her any less. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten your loved one.
  • When you are ready to let go of your guilt and grief, it may help to speak out loud to your loved one, expressing your continued love for him/her while affirming your decision to let go of the grieving process: “I love you, but I have to let you go. I will love you until the day I die, but I’m going to let you go.”

HOW TO HELP CHILDREN COPE WITH TRAUMA

Although children have many of the same reactions as adults do to trauma, they have different ways of expressing their reactions and need some special help to cope.  The following are some suggestions for dealing with the child in crisis:

    • Encourage children and teens to talk about their concerns and to express their feelings.  Some children may be hesitant to initiate such conversation, so you may want to ask what your child has heard and how they feel about it.
    • Explain the facts that you know about the event. Use simple, direct terms to describe what happened. Give factual information. You may have to explain more than once.
    • Encourage children to talk about confusing feelings, worries, daydreams, and disruptions  of concentration by accepting the feelings, listening carefully, and reminding them that these are normal reactions (any of these feelings are okay) following a very scary event.
    • Reinforce safety and security.  Let children know that tragic incidents are not common and that, day-to-day, schools are safe places.  Your child needs a lot of reassurance that you will take care of him.
    • Maintain family routines and activities.  Help children get enough sleep and maintain a balanced diet.
    • You may need to be flexible with bedtime routines.  A child may need for you to stay with him while he falls asleep, he may want a night light, or to sleep with a sibling or with you.
    • If your child is fearful of going to school, if counselors know when your child is in crisis, they can frequently help.
    • Spend extra time with your children and your family.  Hugs help!

 CHILDREN’S REACTIONS TO TRAUMA

Children’s responses to trauma vary according to the age of the child.  Generally, children respond by reverting to behavior typical of an earlier developmental stage.  These responses are considered NORMAL if they are of brief (less than three weeks) duration:

  • Increased somatic complaints (e.g., headaches, stomachaches, aches and pains)
  • Changes in sleep, nightmares
  • Changes in appetite, weight loss
  • Marked changes in school performance; absenteeism
  • Lack of interest in usual activities (e.g., after-school activities, time with friends)
  • Poor concentration, sleepiness, inattentiveness
  • Increase in hyperactivity
  • Irritability with friends, teachers, events
  • Anger outbursts and/or aggression
  • Reckless or risk-taking behavior
  • Neglects about dress and appearance or health
  • Persistent sadness or depression
  • Withdrawal

 For children:  

AGES   1-6

             Bedwetting                            Fear of being left alone

             Immobility                              Confusion

             Excessive clinging                Thumb-sucking

             Fear of darkness                   Inattentiveness

             Nightmares                            Awakening during night

             Crying                                    Inability to sleep without a light or with someone else

                                             AGES  7-11

            Bedwetting                                    Nightmares

            Change in sleep patterns             Unwilling to fall asleep

            Need for night light                        Fear of sleeping alone

            Fear of darkness                          Irritability

            Disobedience                               Loss of concentration

            Fighting                                        Refusal to go to school

                                             AGES  12-18

            Running away                                   Suicidal thoughts

            Stealing                                             Sleeplessness

            School problems                               Inattentiveness

            Confusion                                          Use of drugs

            Relationship difficulties                      Use of alcohol

            Aggressiveness                                 Irritability